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Knox County family raising awareness about childhood cancer

Noah Sileno was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2018. Since then, his family has been fighting for more research funding.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — In 2018, Martha Sileno said she didn't know that gold represented childhood cancer or that September was childhood cancer awareness month.

She definitely didn't know how many children are diagnosed. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 11,000 kids under 15 will be diagnosed this year.

"We always think that childhood cancer is rare, but it's not," Sileno said. "Noah has lost so many friends over the last two years. He's had seven friends pass away."

Noah is her 5-year-old son who was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2018. He's done daily chemotherapy treatments for about two years now — which has been difficult for him and his family.

"He still has neuropathy, so he wears a brace on his right leg. We had to restart physical therapy, which we just graduated again," Sileno said. "We still have a few things because of how harsh chemo is on kids, but today we're in a really good place and we're very thankful for that."

The National Pediatric Cancer Foundation said just 4 percent of all federal cancer research funding is allocated specifically to childhood cancer. 

That's something Martha Sileno hopes will change if they continue raising awareness in their community and on Capitol Hill.

"We shared Noah's story and Noah and Isaac's love for one another and it really impacted the representatives," Sileno said. "One of them was brought to tears and I thought that was pretty powerful because I think it made them realize about childhood cancer."

Isaac was one of Noah's best friends at East Tennessee Children's Hospital. He died about a month before the Silenos went to Washington, D.C.

Credit: Martha Sileno
Five-year-old Noah Sileno has more than 2,200 beads of courage.

In just a month and a half, Noah Sileno will have his final chemotherapy treatment. 

His family is counting down on phones, paper links and calendars. He's beginning to enjoy things that other kids do, like kindergarten and baseball.

But even after his final 49 doses are over, they aren't giving up their fight.

"Our kids deserve more than adult chemo. Our kids deserve more than all the long term side effects that they'll face as they continue to grow," Sileno said. "We just need to advocate and get out there for our kids."